Monday, March 28, 2011


This past weekend reminded me of some wonderful memories I’ve had with the national pancake of France. We enjoyed dinner from Simply Crepes in Canandaigua with friends after a day of wine touring. I had a scrumptious combination of ham, brie, caramelized onion and apples while Don enjoyed an equally tasty crepe filled with turkey and smoked Gouda. For dessert we enjoyed Nutella with bananas and a strawberry/blueberry with vanilla ice cream. Delish!

Of course, we reminisced about our first Erie Canal kayak trip a couple of years ago. After our first night of camping, we set out from the JCC in Rochester to Pittsford. Our goal was to make it to Pittsford in time for breakfast at Simply Crepes. We made it and enjoyed perhaps the most posh breakfast any kayak campers have ever eaten. The perfect fuel for a full day of paddling!

Then we recalled the crepes we had in Paris. During our whirlwind tour of the City of Light, we stopped briefly outside the Pompideau Centre to research how good the crepes really are. First of all, the crepe itself had the diameter of a small kitchen table. Then, the crepe was smeared with the world’s most awesome substance- Nutella. Finally, Monsieur Crepe Guy took an entire banana and thinly sliced it onto the crepe. After a few folds, we had our quintessential Parisian crepe. Other than the fact that the Nutella turned into molten liquid and nearly burned every taste bud off our tongues, it was the most decadent, delectable and delightful street food we ever tasted. 

Post-crepe posing at Pompideau
I can’t think of crepes and not be reminded of my family’s Christmas breakfast tradition. Christmas morning means crepes. Mom never makes just one or two dozen, but (what seems like) about 60! There are the sweet varieties of either strawberry or applesauce, topped with powdered sugar. Then there is the savory crepe with ham, Swiss cheese and Mornay sauce. Breakfast always includes some kind of fruit and some type of bread or coffee cake, but the crepes remain the same: homemade, delicious and comforting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm a grape-aholic

That's right. My name is Andrea and I'm a grape-aholic. I always knew I had a particular affinity for all things grape-flavored. It really just came to light today as I noticed the following on or near me: grape Nerds, Jones Soda grape carbonated candy, grape Laffy Taffy and (of course) grape licorice. Lots of grape licorice! 

New grape obsession!

I even just bought some grape-scented candle melts which are making the house nice and grapey smelling. Come to think of it, I recently purchased skin cleanser made from grape water. We have a monster grapevine in our backyard and, man, does it smell absolutely awesome in the late summer. Growing up, I was never really a fan of cola or even lemon-lime pop. I'd drink it if that was the only thing around, but given a choice I'd take a can of grape any day.

Our dining room lamp

I do like actual grapes, though oddly enough they're not my favorite fruit. Probably not even in my top five fruits. So why the obsession? No idea. Funny thing is that I LOVE strawberries, but I almost completely avoid anything that is strawberry flavored. 

Kitchen decor

As a kid, I did love the color purple. Maybe that's where it all started. What I do know is that today my love for the grape and all things related is closely tied to a little drink you may have heard of... wine!
Almost forgot about Goofy Grape!

Even a grape mirror!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Egg Salad

I’m making egg salad for lunch tomorrow. Simple, protein-rich fare that pulls through when cold cuts just aren’t cutting it. I’m a fan of lots of color and crunch in my egg salad. I throw in chopped celery, shredded carrot, maybe some diced red pepper, parsley and a spot of mustard. Sure, I should probably enjoy it on some kind of healthy whole-grain something or other, but there’s nothing better than good old squishy soft white bread to be the vehicle for my egg salad. 

Egg salad is perfect when I don’t want big food. That way of thinking is what brought Don and me to the Blue Dolphin in Quebec City on our honeymoon way back when. We were only about 3 days in to our trip and already sick of eating big, heavy restaurant food. We were dying for small, light food. Enter the Blue Dolphin- basically a diner/coffee shop in the heart of Vieux Quebec. Lo and behold, they had egg salad on the menu! Both of us ordered one and when our order arrived, what did we get? An egg salad sandwich. That’s it. Nothing else. No chips, no pickle, not even a sprig of parsley… no frills! And it was the best egg salad sandwich we ever ate. I doubt “Le Dauphin Bleu” is still open, but it lives on every time we eat egg salad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Inspirations for today’s post: family culture and a recent dinner at Polish Villa. Kielbasa… a Polish sausage that I could not live without. Having grown up with homemade and Redlinski’s versions, there are not many places that can do it right. Hillshire Farms? Don’t waste my time. Not. Even. Close.

Years went by until Don and I were let in on the secret existence of an amazing meat haven, Quaker Creek Store in Pine Island, NY. You would drive right by it if you didn’t know any better; it’s basically a convenient store and deli that happens to make and sell its own meats. As far as we’re concerned, Bobby Matuwszewski is a sausage deity. His kielbasa rivals that which my grandmother made and sold; if she liked it, it HAS to be nothing short of incredible. My parents are known to stock up and take a cooler full back to Buffalo. Sure they have Mexican chorizo, Italian sausage, Cajun andouille, German bratwurst and maple breakfast sausages, and even my beloved “TV snacks” (cabanossi), but it’s all about the kielbasa. So in an effort to further expose our family and friends to unique culinary treasures, we try to make Quaker Creek’s delicacies part of our social gatherings. Whether it’s just grilled kielbasa with beer mustard or a ‘basy dog at a cookout, their meats are always a hit. And if it's good enough for Tyler Florence and Anthony Bourdain, well... enough said.

The only other kielbasa that ever came close was not even Polish. A random posting in the newspaper community calendar led us over 30 minutes away to the Ukrainian Society camp in Ellenville. Made fresh and brought in from Brooklyn, their kielbasa was a bit thicker than its Polish cousin, but every bit as delicious and utterly impressive to family members.

I remember Nan and Pop and various other relatives gathering together to grind, stuff and smoke their own kielbasa. A recipe does exist in the family “files,” so maybe someday we’ll make our own. Hopefully it will measure up. Na zdrowie!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monte Cristo Sandwich

What's so special about ham, turkey, and cheese on what is basically French toast? The fact that I remember my first one makes it a pretty special sandwich. While I don't recall specifically when I first had that Monte Cristo, I do know for a fact that it was on a family vacation to Walt Disney World. I can narrow the time frame to somewhere between 5th and 8th grade; I'm leaning towards 5th grade since that's the trip when I ran into Liz, a 4th grade classmate of mine, coming out of the restaurant on Main Street USA. A departure from the everyday cold cut concoction, the Monte Cristo struck me as a sandwich masterpiece encompassing the sweet and salty. My favorite parts were the powdered sugar sprinkled on top and the currant jelly served on the side. I didn't know what a currant was at the time, but my fascination got the best of me and I dove right in.

My latest Monte Cristo? The inspiration for this post, it was at the Glen Park Tavern in Williamsville. Again, out to dinner with the family. No powdered sugar. No currant jelly. Maple syrup on the side this time. Different, but not as good as my original.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Runs in the Family

So, now I know where it all comes from. The whole foodographic memory, that is. We were enjoying the fine Polish cuisine of the Polish Villa in honor of Nan. Pierogi, kielbasa, potato pancakes... the only thing missing was the kiszka (thank goodness!). As we were analyzing the smoked kielbasa, Mom pegged the maker of that particular sausage. She noticed the fine grind of the meat and very mild seasoning. Amazing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat

I’ve paid homage to cold breakfast cereal, so here is my tribute to my favorite hot cereals. These friends and I go way back and while I’ve eaten my share of the instant versions, I’m waxing nostalgic about the old fashioned, long-cooking varieties. If you can read and measure you can make either one, but Nan always made them best. There was that special something she would do to make my oatmeal/C.O.W. the most delectable, comforting bowl of cereal ever. She always got the consistency right; I believe my mom used the term “wallpaper paste.” I do know there was more to it than just cereal and water. There was definitely brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Perhaps they were made with milk (probably whole milk) rather than water. Now that I think about it, I’m sure there was a good-sized chunk of butter involved as well. To this day, I still can’t get the proportions or taste quite right and I regret taking it for granted that they were such simple foods to prepare. Sure, things always taste better when someone else prepares them, but no bowl of oatmeal or Cream of Wheat ever came close to that which Nan made for me. I’m still on that quest. I only hope that someday mine will be as great as yours, Nan! 

Love you always...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Easter Candy

Easter is an amazing holiday for a kid, yet a dichotomous one for a Catholic kid. All that candy! You want to please your parents and CCD teacher, right? All that candy! But how can you focus on the Easter miracle, sitting on a hard church pew, when everyone else you know is already digging in to their sugar-filled baskets? All that candy! Well, you learn to cope for about an hour and then you dig in.

Some kids would wake up on Easter morning and go on a hunt for the candy left by the Easter Bunny himself. We, however, were in on the accumulation of our basket contents. Tradition took us to Antoinette’s Sweets, a chocolate dream that seemed to be in a far away land. Turns out, it was only about 7 miles from our house. Walking into Antoinette’s you were instantly hit with the aroma of chocolate wafting through the air. You had to walk past the ice cream parlor to get to the hall of chocolate. I’m sure it wasn’t that big of a room, but I swear it was the size of a football field at the time. Every size, shape and flavor of Easter candy existed on their shelves and tables. Hollow and solid. Milk, dark and orange? Bunnies, chicks, lambs, crosses and eggs. Oh, the joy of being able to pick out what we wanted. Upon returning home, we’d haul out the Easter baskets and fill them up just so. After the obligatory plastic grass went in, the candy set up followed. In went the chocolate of various sizes, shapes and flavors. Then add lots of jelly beans, Peeps (well-aged, of course), Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, malted milk eggs and more jelly beans. Part of the joy of the Easter basket was finding those long lost jelly beans at the bottom after you thought all the candy was gone!

Nowadays I still enjoy Easter candy. We don’t make the trek to Antoinette’s anymore; we usually hit the drug stores and supermarkets the day after for 50% off deals. There’s nothing like Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. They’re still as good as I remember. I think I could survive just by eating those alone. Peeps are still “cured” in an opened package until they reach peak crunchiness. Pastel M&Ms and jelly beans cater to the Easter sweet tooth just as well as anything. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the Easter candy season.